Building Relationships through a Community Hair Shop!

The older Lakota girls fixed hair for the younger girls.
Listella ties Araya’s hair for curls.

We invited our inter-city girls basketball players from the Chamberlain School (6-8 grade) to what we called a community hair shop.  The purpose of this time was to share our talents and to learn a hair style – braiding or rag tie curling – so that when our St. Joseph’s students take part in a powwow or a dance event, they will have more people who can fix their hair the way they like it done.

We started with seven of our high school girls fixing the hair of our inter-city girls.  In return the, the inter-city girls fixed hair for St. Joseph’s girls in grades one through five.  We also invited staff and their families to take part in this exciting event.

We had about 60 girls (maybe more!) take part in our hair shop.  Everyone had a grand time!

At St. Joseph’s community hair shop, the girls wait for their styles to set.
After having their hair tied for curls, Shawna, Alyssa and Freddie let their styles set.

Guest Blogger: Chris B.

Our Student Leadership Committee decorated campus with red ribbons during Red Ribbon Week.
Our Student Leadership Committee decorated campus with red ribbons during Red Ribbon Week.

St. Joseph’s students and staff observed Red Ribbon Week (RRW) during the fourth week in October. Many of our students have been exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, so RRW is an important opportunity to educate and remind students of the negative effects drug and alcohol use can have on their lives.

RRW is the largest drug prevention campaign in our country. It originated because of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena – he was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered in 1985 by Mexican drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Camarena was on the trail of Mexico’s biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers, and was close to busting a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline. The first RRW was held in 1988 so young people and communities could pledge to be drug-free and pay tribute to Camarena.

Grace tries to make a basket on the Extreme Sports Challenge during the inflatable party.
Grace tries to make a basket on the Extreme Sports Challenge during the inflatable party.

St. Joseph’s Substance Abuse Prevention Committee plans fun and educational RRW activities every year for our students. We started the week off by having an inflatable party at our rec center which is always a big hit for everyone!

On Monday, students and staff dressed to the theme “Follow Your Dreams, Don’t do Drugs!” by wearing pajamas. It was a cozy, comfy way to start the week!

On Wednesday, we wore shirts with Gandhi’s quote

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

We are planning to wear these shirts again during our Spring Sobriety Walk in April. We ‘elected’ to be drug-free on Friday by wearing red, white and blue.

Third grade students enjoy the school day in their pajamas.
Third grade students enjoy the school day in their pajamas.

All the homes enjoyed competing in drug and alcohol trivia contests over the intercom after school. Prizes were given to the home that called first with the correct answers. The Ambrose Home won the first two contests, but they failed to make a clean sweep when the Raphael Home won the final contest.

We tried something different this year by holding Red Ribbon Relays, which were partially planned and organized by our High School Leadership Committee.

The homes competed against each other in relay races, a potato sack race and a three-legged race, and they used red ribbons as batons. Students painted their faces blue before the races because they pledged to say “NO” to drugs until they are blue in the face!

Everyone enjoyed an ice cream sundae bar after the races, so the evening had a ‘sweet’ ending.

RRW activities are possible because of your generosity. Pilamaya – thank you so much for everything you do to support these amazing children!

Prayerful and refreshing

The big event in the life of our high school students this weekend was the school play – A Year in the Life of Frog and Toad. The production was whimsical and fun, with catchy songs and colorful sets. Two of our seniors, Chris and Erika, had supporting roles on stage. I laughed as they sang and hammed it up. Another half-dozen of our St. Joseph’s students took part behind the scenes, working lights and props and helping as student directors. The play was especially kid friendly, and space was reserved on the floor in front of the stage for any youngsters who wanted to sit on the floor close to the action. For a small school, Chamberlain has some talented and dedicated staff to work with students and put together quality performances.

On campus, basketball reigned as king. Saturday morning fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls played against cross town rivals Chamberlain. St. Joseph’s swept three very close games, two of which were decided in the last 15 seconds. Many of our staff were on hand not only to cheer on our students in blue and yellow, but their own kids wearing Cubs red and white. One of our counselors who has a daughter on Chamberlain said it’s too hard to root for both teams, but you have to! Sunday afternoon the boys played intercity, where Chamberlain and St. Joseph’s students played alongside each other. Again, you had to root for all the teams and players!

Because of the drought in our area, an earlier burning ban prevented us from opening the sweat lodge for inipi ceremonies during the fall months. Now that we’ve had a little moisture and the weather has turned colder, it’s safe to build a fire. An elder from the Rosebud Indian Reservation, grandfather to three of our students, came to campus to offer the opportunity for our junior high and our high school boys. For a few of the younger students it was their first time, and they were prepared and guided through the ceremony, which they found prayerful and refreshing, with good bonding as a result.

Sharing Sunday brunch in the Stevens Home (6th-8th grade girls) Frank and Wanda mentioned that this is their 25th year as houseparents at St. Joseph’s, and they are seeing a second generation of families they’ve had long ties with. They pulled out the yearbook from their first year here, and showed the moms of two families of girls they currently have with them. In residential care, such longevity is rare, but we have several long-timers who have built trust and relationships that are wonderful.

Adding spirit

St. Joseph’s Indian School’s choir continues to add spirit to our prayer by their voices. After mass, the director thanked them for their efforts. One student remarked,

“You’re welcome. I like singing and it sure makes mass go by a lot faster!”

Like most things, when you are involved as an active participant, time does pass differently. When people are engaged and lose track of time that’s a good sign.

Last Sunday, our boys’ Intercity Basketball League held practice games. Today was the official start of league play as 6th – 8th grade boys from Chamberlain played alongside our St. Joseph’s students. The difference between  6th graders and  8th is noticeable at that age. A 4’9” sixth grader trying to guard a 5’ 10” eighth grader has great odds to overcome. But everyone hustled and kept trying. All the participants got plenty of playing time. Hopefully all will continue to improve their game, and more importantly, build friendships.

I made the annual Halloween pilgrimage to the Perky Home (4th-5th grade boys). In the basement, our houseparent Wendy has collected several hundred Halloween costumes over the years – store bought and homemade, scary, funny and whimsical. When I arrived, the Raphael boys (1st – 3rd graders) had just finished picking out what they will wear, and excitedly showed their costumes off. I found some Fred Flintstone clothes on the rack that I’ll try while passing out treats on Wednesday.

Yabba Dabba Doo!

Over the weekend many of the homes finished up their efforts to win the decoration contest for each age group.

Guest Blogger: LaRayne

Two Native American girls take a break from powwow practice!
Laurissa and Shawnna take a break from powwow dance practice to smile for the camera!

We are all looking forward to hosting many visitors and friends at our 36th annual St. Joseph’s Indian School Powwow! We are busy having dance practices with St. Joseph’s students.  To date, we have around sixty kids who plan on dancing at our annual powwow.  This number always increases as powwow nears.

The favorite style for the girls is fancy shawl and the boys like grass the best. The dances look simple and easy, but when it comes to being judged at the powwow, there are several elements that come into play.  Not only the foot and body work, but hands, head and accessories also play a part in the judging process.  Having beadwork on one’s regalia is also a plus for the judge’s eye.

Because many of our Native American students only dance at our powwow, it is a challenge to convince them that they must “showcase” themselves to the judges in order to gain points.  All in all, it is a fun time practicing and dancing at our annual powwow.

Our staff are also preparing for powwow.  This is one organization that comes together for one of our many great events of the year.  It is great to see staff, families and our students along with the community, friends and donors share in a great cultural experience.

Fascination and chuckles

This morning I attended a funeral at Fort Thompson, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation. Rose was 90 years old and the matriarch of a large family. At the funerals I’ve attended of many elders, much of the congregation are gray-haired themselves. Rose outlived all of her contemporaries. Instead, the church was full of a lot of young people. Most of her 58 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren live in the area.

At Indian reservation funerals, it’s customary to start the services with a final viewing of the body before the casket is closed. Mourners also say a few words of comfort to the family, or give a hug or handshake. Today that process took over an hour as so many people streamed past. I have fond memories of Rose from my days as pastor there, and wanted to show my support to her family.

Today staff pulled together and the homes and classrooms are ready for the arrival of our students this weekend.

This was also the final day of our SCJ novices’ retreat. They will head back to Chicago and what the novitiate will bring them this year in a time of self discovery. I was truly blessed by listening to them listen to the Lord, and sharing with me where God is leading.

This evening was fun and festive as we took in the Lower Brule Tribal Fair and Powwow. We spent a little time at the rodeo grounds, where Juan Carlos was fascinated by the horsemanship. Next stop was the softball tournament, where James got several chuckles over the teasing banter of the PA announcer.

The highlight, of course, was the powwow with eleven drums singing traditional songs and the colorful Grand Entry with a procession of all the dancers.  The novices got their first taste of Fry Bread and Indian Tacos and found it quite tasty.

We saw lots of St. Joseph’s students. While some kids complain about having to go back to school, many of the youngsters I met were actually excited and looking forward to coming back.

That tells me we’re doing a few things right.

Congratulations class of 2012

With just a week to go in the school year, all the homes are cleaning out their refrigerators. At this point in the year, homes even start trading groceries with one another in an effort to use up as much as they can. Wisdom Circle, in front of the Benedictine Homes (1st-5th grades) is a lovely grassy spot in center of St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, shaded by majestic cottonwood trees.

With picnic tables out for the nicer weather, the setting was perfect for a couple of picnic meals. Friday evening houseparents Leonard and Aleece organized a meal for all the t-ball participants. That included all of the 1st-3rd graders on campus and the fare was your basic hot dogs and hamburgers, with fruits and vegetables. Today after church, the houseparents all pitched in different specialties for a brunch.

I kicked a soccer ball around for a while with a few students, then got involved in a football game. Kids love to play, but they also need to learn how to play fairly. I noticed that they were spending more time arguing about the rules or if they were actually touched with two hands than the time they spent actually playing. I became the quarterback (and referee) for both teams, and enhanced the speed of play considerably. I remember what it was like to be one of the last ones picked, so I made sure to throw the ball to everyone, and give each child a chance to participate. When one boy started yelling at a teammate for dropping a ball, I stopped the action and told him it was important to encourage teammates to try hard, but not belittle them. When another boy gave a shove after the play was finished, I got his attention by calling an “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” penalty.

“This isn’t real football” he objected.

“But you need to play by real rules, especially the rule of being a good sport,” I told him. Competition is okay, but cooperation is better.

Four students from St. Joseph's Indian School pause for a graduation picture.
Congratulations 2012 graduates!

Today was High School Graduation. Fifty young adults from Chamberlain and the surrounding area received their diplomas in the packed ceremony held at the Armory. Four of the 50 were St. Joseph’s students. Attached to their hats were eagle feathers their families had provided to honor their accomplishment. Watching each of the students walk forward brought back so many memories of the years that I’ve known them and saw them grow up before my eyes.

Blessings and best wishes in the future, and congratulations graduates!